like many startups The founder, Anjali Jindal Naik, co-founder and COO of autonomous sidewalk robot maker Cartken, was raised by entrepreneurs. Her parents owned a furniture store in North Carolina, and Nike spent much of middle school and high school helping manage warehouse deliveries, an experience that would later inform her current activities.
When he graduated from university, Naik’s father gave him some advice: start his own business; Don’t work for someone else.
Naik followed his passion for Bollywood music and created his first company, Saavn, a successful distribution and streaming service for Indian and Bollywood music and content. At Saavn, Nike realized that they liked to push the envelope with emerging technology and experiment with product-market fit. Back in 2005, this meant working on ringtones for mobile phones, and even trying, and failing, streaming Indian music programs to mobile phones in the US.
Nike handled the operations and product of several companies, including, notably, Google Express, a shopping service from Google, which has since been swallowed up by Google Shopping. It was there that she met engineers at the company’s Area 120 incubator for experimental products, Jake Stallman and Christian Bursch, who would later become her co-founders at Cartken.
Stallman and Bursch worked on Bookbot, a sidewalk delivery robot that delivered books to and from libraries. The project, and its pilot at the Mountain View Library, was short-lived for commercial and political reasons rather than hardware or technical reasons – the robot reportedly operated quite well.
The footpath, to us, seems to be the best way to reach an original and final destination. So that’s kind of where we’ve landed. Anjali Jindal Nayaki
That was in 2018. Cartken was formed the following year.
Since then, Cartken has started pilots with Reef Technology to bring food from Reef’s network of delivery-only kitchens to customers in Miami, with Erasmus University in Rotterdam to deliver convenience store items to students, and Mitsubishi. To provide indoor and curb-side delivery. At a popular mall in Japan for Starbucks customers.
We sat down with Nike to talk about the benefits of graduating from a tech giant like Google, the growing demand in the robotic pavement delivery space, and how a strong tech baseline could enable new form factors.
The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who build transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
Meczyki.Net: What’s your biggest takeaway as a startup that split from a big parent company like Google?
Anjali Jindal Naik: When you do something under one big umbrella like Google, you do a lot of testing, testing and prototyping. But I don’t know if that necessarily gives you the push that says, “Okay, let’s take this to market and move away from the safety net of actually doing this within a larger company.”
I think it’s good to start a project there. But if you really want to get the true entrepreneurial spirit, going out on your own and maybe some knowledge and testing that you have done, and creating something new outside that umbrella is really the best of both worlds. This gives you a little more confidence that what you are putting in the market has already been confirmed.
I don’t think we’ll ever escape the title of Google alum. This is a main part of our story.
There is a lot of debate in the industry about the best form factor for autonomous delivery. Why do you reverse sidewalk delivery?
I think the bike creates some barriers to entry on the path or even on the road. The footpath, to us, seems to be the best way to reach an original and final destination. So that’s kind of where we’ve landed.
We’ve spent a lot of time working on its form factor to make sure it’s not cumbersome and isn’t a hindrance to strollers, wheelchairs, and others on the sidewalk who need to share the sidewalk, but that whatever The luggage we need to move has enough compartment storage to move.